When politicians grab and wave the chalice of religion, they tarnish its beauty and purpose, turning its gold to nickel. Or let me put it another way. They sully and invade the privacy of faith and misuse God for propaganda and political games. The master of this dark art was the Ayatollah Khomeini, who swept into power in Iran in 1979. His political takeover was disguised as religious salvation and we know what happened next.

Saudi Arabia is the most loathsome, extreme theocratic state. In India, the Hindu fundamentalist BJP party has successfully sold itself to countless supporters and the apartheid regime in South Africa cited the Bible to justify its racism. Nearer home, Tony Blair called upon his Catholic deity to vouch for his motives when accused of lying about Iraq. The Pope gave him special blessings. These are the more dramatic examples of politicking with God. Just as common and corrosive is the everyday manipulation of religion by politicians.

Recently, David Cameron did just that. The state should be secular, religiously neutral. Yet our PM, once a spin doctor, appropriated divinity efficiently and timed his message precisely. He chose this season of peace and goodwill to rouse muscular, Anglican jingoism, partly to pick a fight again with “multiculturalism” but mostly, I think, to cleanse the many sins of his government.

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